|Financial planners usually prepare financial plans for their clients, but the kinds of services financial planners offer can vary widely.
Some financial planners look at every aspect of your financial life—including saving, investments, insurance, taxes, retirement, and estate planning—and help you develop a detailed strategy or financial plan for meeting all your financial goals. Other professionals call themselves financial planners, but they may only be able to recommend that you invest in a narrow range of products.
When hiring a financial planner, you should know exactly what services you need, what services the planner can deliver, and any limitations on what he or she can recommend. In addition, you should understand what services you’re paying for, how much those services cost, and how the planner gets paid. Financial planners charge for their services in different ways: some charge either a fixed fee or an hourly fee for the time it takes to develop a financial plan, but don’t sell investment products (fee-only); some are paid by commissions on the products they sell; and others use a combination of fees and commissions.
Financial planners may come from many different educational and professional backgrounds. If you’re considering using a financial planner, be sure to ask about their background. If they have a credential, ask them what it means and what they had to do to earn it.
Some financial planners have credentials like a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). Find out what organization issued the credential, and then contact the organization to verify whether the professional you’re considering did, in fact, earn the credential and whether the professional remains in good standing with the organization.
Financial planners who give investment advice to their clients must register with the SEC or the appropriate state securities regulator.